Magnesium really is a miracle mineral for stress and anxiety so it only makes sense to kick-start this list by talking a little bit more about this nutrient. As I mention in my blog, ‘Can magnesium help anxiety?’ magnesium performs several key functions throughout the body that could benefit your nervous system, thus reducing anxiety symptoms. This mineral helps to convert tryptophan, an amino acid, into serotonin, a key mood-boosting neurotransmitter.
Magnesium is also needed to maintain healthy GABA levels. What is GABA? GABA refers to gamma-aminobutyric acid, your brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter which helps your mind and body to relax. Understandably, this neurotransmitter is pretty important for your sleep patterns and mood and, when levels are low, it can contribute to feelings of anxiety, restlessness or even insomnia.
How much each day?
So, how much magnesium do you need to consume each day? Well, the NHS recommends between 270-300mg, although many feel that this figure is too low. Of course, here at A.Vogel, we always say that you should be able to get all the magnesium you need from your diet alone – there are plenty of different magnesium-rich foods out there for you to pick from! However, certain groups of people, such as menopausal women, those with joint pain or those suffering from PMS, may wish to try a supplement.
Best food sources: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, bananas, avocados, dark chocolate, cashews.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D might be best known as a nutrient, but did you know that it can act as a hormone too? In addition to supporting our absorption of calcium, vitamin D helps to keep your immune system ticking along nicely and may even play a role when it comes to low mood and problems such as SAD. When it comes to your mood, the action of vitamin D isn’t well understood – but it is known that deficiencies are linked to anxiety and that vitamin D receptors are prolific in the areas of your brain associated with depression.1 This has led some experts to theorise that there could be a relationship between vitamin D and serotonin.
How much each day?
Vitamin D is different from other nutrients in the respect that your diet inherently won’t be your main source of vitamin D. Instead, your body relies on your exposure to sunlight to synthesise vitamin D and this can be problematic if you live in a country like the UK. Sunny days are never a guarantee here which means that vitamin D deficiencies during winter are quite common.
While you can source vitamin D from the foods that you eat, most people these days prefer supplements which, again, can cause a number of worrying issues. Firstly, 10-20mcg tends to be the daily recommendation from most experts but many health food stores and pharmacies stock supplements that can contain as much as three or four times this amount! This can place you at risk of vitamin D toxicity as, just as with anything, too much will do you harm.
That’s why, if you are considering a supplement, 10mcg should be plenty! In fact, it might even be a good idea that, if you suspect your deficient, to first get this confirmed by a doctor.
Best food sources: Fortified milk, tofu, salmon, mackerel, shiitake mushrooms.
One of the most abundant nutrients in your body, calcium is crucial for maintaining healthy bones, muscle contractions and nerves. In the case of your mood, low levels of calcium are often linked to problems such as anxiety or stress, especially when it comes to menstruating women. This is because any deficiencies in calcium may result in PMS-related depression.2
How much each day?
It’s estimated that adults over the age of 19 need around 700mg of calcium a day, predominately from dietary related sources. When it comes to using calcium supplements, many prefer to use a supplement that contains calcium, rather than focusing on it being the sole ingredient. In fact, these days, calcium and magnesium are a popular combination as these two nutrients can work together to tackle muscular tension.
Best food sources: Milk, cheese, broccoli, salmon, soybeans, figs.
Zinc might be a trace mineral but it’s definitely not to be underestimated. You need a sufficent amount of zinc for everything from your eye health to your prostate to manufacturing new cells. Your mood is definitely no exception here – did you know that zinc is mainly concentrated in your brain? Here, it helps to regulate GABA3, that calming neurotransmitter I mentioned earlier, plus it also plays a role in producing serotonin, alongside vitamin B6.
Unfortunately, zinc deficiencies aren’t unheard of here in the UK, and can lead to symptoms such as poor wound healing, low immune function, low mood and hair loss. One easy way to tell if you’re zinc deficient is to look at your nails – are there any small white spots on them? If so, this could be a sign that you’re deficient in zinc!
How much each day?
As I’ve mentioned, zinc is a trace nutrient so you only need it in very small amounts, around 7-10mg a day. If we only need small amounts, though, why are deficiencies so widespread? Well, in part, it’s due to how your body absorbs zinc – generally, meat-based sources are better absorbed than plant-based options which can create problems if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
That’s why it might be a nice idea to try a very gentle supplement; however, zinc generally works best as part of a team. That’s why I’d recommend trying our Balance Mineral Drink. Not only does this contain 3mg of zinc, it also contains plenty of other anxiety-soothing nutrients, such as magnesium, vitamin D and calcium! It’s an ideal combination and, best of all, it’s easily absorbed by your body so no goodness is wasted.
Best food sources: Shellfish, lentils, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs, potatoes
Here in the UK, iron deficiencies are extremely common, especially in menstruating women. This is extremely unfortunate as low levels of iron are linked to a plethora of unpleasant symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches and brittle nails. What’s worse for your stress levels is that low levels of iron means less oxygen-rich blood is being pumped around your body, which can promote feelings of anxiety! If you want to read more about the effects of low iron levels, please read our Nutritionist Emma’s blog, ‘What happens when you are low in iron?’.
How much each day?
How much iron you need each day can depend on a number of factors. Healthy men, for example, will only need 8.7mg while healthy women need a greater intake of 14-15mg. The problem is that these figures can fluctuate, especially in the case of menstruating women, who usually have a higher demand for iron around the time of their period. Vegans and vegetarians, again, are at risk of deficiency here as meat-based foods generally offer a better intake compared to plant-based sources.
That’s why iron supplements are becoming increasingly popular; however, as always, moderation is key. Too much of a good thing can be extremely detrimental to your body, so try to make sure you’re taking a gentle supplement that’s going to be well-absorbed by your body. Once again, it’s worth mentioning Floradix here as they offer a Liquid Iron formula that’s completely suitable for vegetarians and contains additional nutrients, such as vitamin C and B vitamins, for better iron absorption.
Best food sources: Beef, pumpkin seeds, spinach, lentils, cashews.
6. B vitamins
There are eight different B vitamins that each perform their own distinct functions throughout the body; however, one thing that many of them have in common is that they can help with the management of anxiety.
Let’s start by looking at vitamin B1, sometimes known as thiamine. This nutrient helps to convert carbohydrates into energy that your body can then utilise as a fuel source, so this is naturally a good one to bear in mind if fatigue is a problem for you. It’s also believed that B1 can help to regulate your blood glucose levels which, again, can have a positive impact on anxiety symptoms.
Next, there’s vitamin B3, or niacin. You need vitamin B3 to help metabolise alcohol, fats and glucose but, in addition to dealing with these tricky substances, this nutrient also helps to support the production of serotonin. This is similar to vitamins B9 and B12 (folate and cobalamin respectively), who often work as a team when it comes to manufacturing red blood cells and are speculated to be a good combination for low mood issues like depression.4
Finally, there’s vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, which helps to release energy from the food that we eat. This vitamin also helps to support the adrenal glands, thus reducing many of the symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. Hopefully this information gives you some insight into how useful B vitamins can be but, if you want to learn more, I’d recommend checking out our B vitamins page which goes into a little bit more depth!
How much each day?
When it comes to B vitamins, how much you’ll need each day will vary from vitamin to vitamin which is why I’ve listed the basic requirements below.
- B1 – 0.8-1mg
- B3 – 13-17mg
- B5 – 13-17mg
- B9 – 0.2mg
- B12 – 1.5-2.4 mcg
When it comes to supplements, we usually recommend taking a B complex rather than individual supplements for each nutrient. Magnesium OK is one complex that we tend to suggest to our customers here at A.Vogel as, in addition to containing magnesium, this product also contains suitable amounts of each B vitamin, helping to support and maintain healthy energy levels.
Food sources: Sunflower seeds, avocados, bananas, lentils, mackerel, wholegrain bread, broccoli.